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Kalpa Imperial by Angélica Gorodischer jh Send a noteboard - 09/02/2012 09:38:18 PM
Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was
by Angélica Gorodischer

It has now been a number of years since I first heard of this book, courtesy of an unnamed member around here who tends to brag about reading a lot of books in Foreign (he also has a rodent fetish), and I have finally 1) Ordered books from a seller which had this one, and 2) Remembered to actually look for it. For those of us not familiar with the book or its history, it is a book written by Argentine author Gorodischer, published in 1983 in Spanish. However, that being a fairly useless language around these parts (that is, Sweden) it first appeared on most people's radar when it was translated to English by Ursula K. LeGuin, the somewhat famous author. This happened in 2003, so I am a little late to the party.

However, let us start with describing the story: It is a history of the empire kind of deal, touching down at important (and insignificant) events throughout the Empire's long history. The narrative structure is based on the Storyteller - a figure who tells the story in some sort of simulated oral tradition. It is an unreliable narrator in that the story is often quite blatantly embellished to capture the listeners. The story is told in varied ways, from detailed second-by-second descriptions to 20 year jumps in the middle of a paragraph. The narrator is not beyond diverging into tangential stories, and it happens frequently. He also tends to allude to historical events which are unknown to the reader. But what is more important to me, is that the narrative structure works, it kept me hooked.

There is not really any central storyline, just a collection of short stories, most of them unconnected, but together they build a picture of the empire, how its citizens were treated, how it was ruled, and how ambition can actually lead to something bigger than intended from the beginning. The stories vary from the young prince who learns to mistrust women in general to the strong empress generations later. One story dealt with an unfortunate gambler who by chance turned out to be the one to break the empire, another described the history of one city in a fairly detailed way, from before it's founding to the story's "present day".

I am not normally one to enjoy short story collections, but the wonder of this book is that the series of unconnected stories brings out a world which is rich in history and explores a lot of "what if" questions relating to long lasting empires. It is probably not a good idea to compare the Empire to any which has existed, but still, it is a good book, for a picky reader who like fantasy-like stories which does not specifically require you to leave your brain in a jar somewhere.
"People think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they don't realize how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world" - Calvin.
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Kalpa Imperial by Angélica Gorodischer - 09/02/2012 09:38:18 PM 5940 Views
I read that, it was good. *NM* - 09/02/2012 10:18:29 PM 350 Views
Good book. - 09/02/2012 10:52:31 PM 711 Views

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